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Reimagining Skill India

19th July 2019
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Ritesh dropped out of Grade 9 two years ago and has been doing odd jobs in the neighbourhood. He wants to start thinking about his future but does not know where to look for guidance.

Mitali completed her school education and knows of a Skill India center near her home. She has not considered enrolling as she believes vocational training is not meant for someone who wants a ‘proper’ career.

Shyam completed a short vocational course in mobile repairing because all his friends were doing one, but now has little work and wonders whether he should migrate to a place with better opportunities.

Kamala has been working as a healthcare general duty assistant at a small town hospital for the last five years. She feels stuck in her current role but is unaware of upskilling options to advance in her career.

Ritesh, Mitali, Shyam and Kamala are faces of new young India, aspiring for career opportunities, but feeling adrift along their journey. The large supply of skilling centers as well as financing programs from government and CSR funds have attempted to solve for this. However, a lot more needs to be done. It needs a reimagination of the entire skilling ecosystem and an overhaul focused on becoming career-first rather than skills-first. We believe that a trust-based, aspirer-centric and a technology-led approach can help to reduce the frictions that the youth face and help to meet their career aspirations.

Let us look at some of the frictions faced today by the aspirants today across their employment life-cycle, and see what might move the needle.

1. Getting trusted information on skilling programmes or centers: Mobilization and counselling of youth has primarily been the responsibility of skills providers so far. Aspirants often find it difficult to verify or trust the information from these sources and do not know where else to look. The absence of relatable, role model stories from these centers make it even harder to evaluate the importance of skilling programmes.

What if the skilling ecosystem takes a cue from other products and services that have been successful in breaking trust barriers on information? What if learners had access to stories of career and skilling pathways of other students not only from their own neighbourhood but also from other parts of the country? What if there was a real-time heatmap of jobs, livelihood and related skilling opportunities available at district or block level to aspirants? What if user reviews and ratings — such as those on e-commerce websites — were made available to learners on skilling programmes

2. Selecting a career path based on aptitude or interests: Think of a time when in your own career journey, you were faced with choices and you needed guidance. If you were lucky, you might have been able to map your interests and aptitude with your profession which led you to be more productive and satisfied as a result.
Most aspirants are not even able to identify their own interests and strengths. In general, they choose career based on availability and necessity.
What if there were online aptitude/psychometric tests to suggest what career options to pursue? What if these results could then be linked to skilling and career pathways locally as well as outside their current geographic boundaries? What if local community influencers were empowered with the right tools to serve as credible source of knowledge on personalized skilling pathways? What if these influencers could also play a role in life-long learning and career pathways.

3. Receiving quality training aligned with employer needs, everywhere: Teachers or trainers are at the center of any education delivery. A skilling student needs hands-on training as well as training in lifeskills such as problem solving, collaboration and other work-readiness skills. Finding great trainers for every skilling location can be an arduous task, which is one of the reasons high quality skilling programmes struggle to scale beyond their regions.
What if high quality teaching can be made available to all students irrespective of their locations? What if the learning model was ‘blended’, where a great facilitator could use pre-recorded content to teach technical skills while focusing on incorporating lifeskills in the classroom teaching? What if a small number of high-quality teachers can simultaneously teach geographically dispersed students online on an interactive live learning platform across a region or the entire country.

4. Connecting with the right internship, apprenticeship and job opportunities: Internships or apprenticeships play an important role in taking training beyond classrooms and preparing students for real-life, full-time jobs. Today, youth mostly rely on informal networks to find these opportunities.
What if there were online employment exchanges for the aspirers to find information on jobs and apprenticeships in their own languages? What if such a contextual platform not only enabled them to start their career but also enable them to find jobs through their career journey.

5. Switching jobs and moving up in career trajectory: Verified and trustworthy skills enable workers to earn a wage premium and move up in their career. With the majority of the workforce employed in informal and unorganized sectors, trust in the quality of credentials becomes even more important.
What if upon graduation aspirants can get certificates that are verifiable digitally by anyone, anywhere? What if these certificates can break down their credentials at the level of subskills which can then be ported to job roles in a different sector for horizontal mobility or appropriate upskilling for vertical mobility? What if a skilled professional can continue to accumulate credentials throughout the course of their work life based on the performance at work?

And the good news is that these are not speculative ideas or rhetorical questions. Each of these solutions to help create more meaningful lives exist today.

While we look forward to sharing more on some of these tech led solutions in subsequent articles, our hope is to kindle a sense of imagination on what is possible when you start down the path of empowering millions of aspiring young Indians like Ritesh, Mitali, Shyam and Kamala.